Advice for your L-test teenager
GEM Motoring Assist has some advice designed to reduce the stress parents can experience when their children reach 17 and want to get behind the wheel
Counting the cost
It’s a good idea to have a frank discussion about finances before your teenager even applies for a provisional licence. Discuss the extent to which you’ll be able to help pay for lessons and how much he or she should plan on contributing.
Learning to drive is a costly business, and it’s important to have a realistic idea of the sums involved beforehand. Otherwise you can get into a situation where the teenager is making progress but has to take a break from lessons because of cash-flow problems.
How many lessons your child needs will depend on natural aptitude and whether or not there’s the opportunity to practise. But it’s a good idea to budget for between 35 and 50 hours, meaning a total tuition bill of between £1000 and £1400. The provisional licence costs £34 online, a theory test costs £25, and the practical test costs £62.
Choosing the right instructor
The first step in the process is to check that any potential instructor is a fully qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). They can be identified by the green octagonal badge on their windscreen. A pink badge means the instructor is still a trainee. Then ask your friends and family members for personal recommendations, and follow up with additional research.
Call potential instructors for a chat to get a feel for them and their approach. And get your teenager to talk to them as well. If the instructor is someone they feel they can get on with, that’s really going to help the learning process.
The need to practise
It’s always a good idea for learners to practise between lessons if possible as it gives them the opportunity to consolidate what they’ve been taught. Clocking up more hours at the wheel will also increase their confidence and expose them to a greater range of driving conditions. However, the prospect of sitting beside a learner-driver child can seriously unnerve some parents. If you feel like this, then there’s no point in forcing yourself to take your teen out for practice drives as it will just be upsetting for both of you.
Anyone supervising a learner driver needs to be over 21 and to have held a driving licence for the type of car they’ll be using (manual or automatic) for at least three years.
You’ll also need to sort out suitable insurance. If your teenager is learning to drive in the family car then contact your insurance company and arrange to have them put on as a named driver. L-plates (L or D plates in Wales) will need to be displayed at the front and rear of the vehicle when they’re at the wheel.
When it comes to deciding which aspect of their driving they should be practising, it’s best to liaise with the driving instructor, who will know what they need to work on. Of course, it’s important for parents to realise that the driving test has changed a lot in the last 20 years, and that driving instructors will be teaching the skills in the most up-to-date way.
Exams are nerve-racking at the best of times, but driving tests can feel particularly harrowing. So be supportive, as teenagers will not only be afraid of letting you down, they will also feel under pressure from friends. A reputable driving instructor won’t put students forward for the test unless they’ve reached the correct standard.
A lifetime of safe driving
It pays to book additional training after the test, particularly so that your son or daughter can become familiar with safe, confident motorway driving. You will need to let your insurer know about the move from provisional to full licence status. Adding an 18-year-old to your policy is likely to cost several hundred pounds, but there are discounts if you agree to use some sort of telematics device that monitors and records how he or she drives.